Using Rule Of 24 To Overcome Pandemic Challenges

Robert (Bob) Riefstahl is the Founding Partner at 2Win! Global. His firm provides Sales, PreSales & Executive training worldwide. 

In 2018, two years before the Covid pandemic, there was a significant shift in business-to-business (B2B) buying behavior. Corporate decision-making became more complex with more stakeholders in geographically dispersed locations.

Through my time consulting and training technology companies globally on B2B sales and demo engagement techniques, I have seen clients experience a tsunami of buyer behavior changes that have reshaped many of their go-to-market strategies and tactics. Collectively, I like to refer to the adaptation to these buyer demands as being “Rule of 24 ready.” 

Rule of 24 is the dramatic time compression driven by B2B stakeholders as they demand accelerated research, content, answers and alignment to make a buying decision.

Before 2018, traditional B2B client engagements frequently consisted of a salesperson relationship: selling to a sponsor (the salesperson’s primary contact) over a lengthy period to convince the sponsor they needed to make a change. The sponsor eventually assembled stakeholders to create a selection team; they would conduct an evaluation process involving multiple potential vendors. Once the vendor pool was reduced to the top two or three finalists, the vendors were invited to present or, in the case of technology companies, demo, their solution. The time between becoming a finalist and the presentation or demo was often three to four weeks — or roughly 24 days. Not anymore. That timeframe is now often reduced to 24 hours, 24 minutes or even, 2.4 seconds.

Research And Causation

My clients felt this trend of compressed buying cycles emerge with Rule of 24 symptoms in the demo stage of a typical B2B sales process. These symptoms included more directive stakeholders, more educated stakeholders, lower patience during the process, more abbreviated discoveries and less time to prepare for finals events.

In a survey my company conducted of B2B sales and pre-sales professionals inside and outside our client base, we asked B2B sales and pre-sales professionals to complete the following sentence: “Compared to four years ago, B2B stakeholders…” and their responses confirmed that stakeholders are being more directive, more likely to interrupt, more educated on product solutions and tend to request access to more information. 

Our post-research interviews and analysis uncovered a wide variety of contributors to these massive market shifts. Everything from consumer purchasing expectations to geographical dispersion of stakeholders was found to be affecting this culture. 

Becoming Rule of 24 Ready With Covid

In past articles and a book my partner and I have written on Rule of 24, we have outlined five key strategies that can help organizations become Rule of 24-ready. These include utilizing video automation strategies, improving virtual meeting strategies, insisting on purpose-driven teamwork and implementing sales enablement assessment and coaching. 

Almost everyone in business has experienced the disruption and challenges that the pandemic has thrust upon the B2B economy. Now, more than ever before, organizations that embrace Rule of 24 readiness have the opportunity to differentiate themselves from a slew of competitors with poor responses and excuses to an otherwise legitimate pandemic.

I’ll never be so trite as to suggest carpe diem; however, make sure to ask yourself if you’re doing everything within your power and sphere of influence to dial up your Rule of 24 readiness.

For example, make sure to have a library of videos available for your sales organization and, potentially, on your website that provides authentic, highly impactful product overviews and use-cases. Don’t stuff marketing fluff in these videos. Have them produced as if you were a prospect and you wanted to experience the product as if you were using it.

For virtual meetings, make sure your team is equipped with a high-quality digital microphone with, if necessary, noise-canceling features to eliminate barking dogs, Amazon delivery doorbells and noisy households. Use high-quality webcams that adjust for multiple lighting situations and audit backgrounds for clutter, windows and professionalism. Encourage front lighting to properly illuminate your employees’ images, and train them on interactivity techniques like whiteboarding, illustrating and screen sharing.

Purpose-driven teamwork during the Covid pandemic means your team knows how to effectively interact when everyone is virtual or in a hybrid virtual and in-person setting. If you are a leader invited to a call and you have something you want to say, turn on your camera as a cue to your sales representative, and they should know to hand the baton to you. Insist that the team meets before the call to discuss roles and signals so they exude professionalism. In a Rule of 24 world, your team has to get it right during every interaction.

Making these changes can help provide you with the advantages of being a modern, client-centric and successful organization.

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